If you’re producing music at home or in the studio, one of the most important pieces of gear in your setup is an Audio Interface and with so many on the market, it’s hard to know where to start. We’ve done the hard work for you and have listed our Top 5 Interfaces for 2021 below.
With so many interfaces on the market, choosing the one that is right for you can be a very daunting task and more so if you’re a first-time buyer/beginner.
1. Universal Audio Volt 1 USB Audio Interface | 2. Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface, 3rd Gen | 3. Audient iD4 MKII USB Audio Interface | 4. Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1 USB Audio Interface | 5. PreSonus AudioBox iOne Audio Interface | Top 5 Beginner Audio Interfaces – Musicians Actually Want [VIDEO]
What Is An Audio Interface?
To put it simply, an audio interface allows you to get sound both in and out of your computer. Regularly referred to as a sound card or mic preamp, It’s the first step towards recording professional-sounding music. It’s where you plug in your microphone/instrument to capture the audio onto your computer, where you can edit it in a piece of recording software.
Audio interfaces are available with different amounts of inputs/outputs and knowing how many you need depends on how many instruments/microphones you want to record with at once. If you are a singer-songwriter, you may be used to playing the guitar and singing at the same time, making it important to find a recording interface that can record both of these different sound sources in a single performance.
A recording interface alone isn’t enough to record, as you need to run recording software to capture/manage the audio. Luckily, it’s commonplace for audio interfaces to come bundled with free software to get you started. Audio Software is more commonly referred to as a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) and to help you even further, we have listed what software packages come with each interface in our Top 5.
What’s the best audio interface for beginners?
An audio interface with 2-ins/2-outs (2 inputs, 2 outputs) is usually a good starting point for beginners. With 2 inputs, you can connect both a microphone and a guitar to each input, and then record both at the same time on separate channels. These audio “clips” would then be managed by a piece of Audio Software, named a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).
Many people start with a 2-in/2-out audio interface while they learn the basics and then upgrade if they decide to incorporate more microphones/instruments into their setup. Reasons to opt for more inputs would be to accommodate for recording Drums and full live band recording, both needing far more microphone inputs.
To help you with that important decision, we’ve put together a list of our Top 5 Audio Interfaces for Beginners. Scroll down to see more:
Universal Audio manufacture market-leading audio interfaces, plugins and studio outboard equipment. The new Universal Audio Volt line features some great audio interfaces for beginners who want a high-quality interface by a renowned brand at an affordable price.
The Universal Audio Volt 1 USB Audio Interface is ideal whether you’re a singer/songwriter, guitarist, live streamer, or podcaster. It is a 1-in/2-out USB interface that can be used with Mac, PC, iPad, and iPhone. Notable features include a Vintage Mic Preamp mode taken from UA’s 610 tube preamp, superior sound quality, and a range of industry-leading music software, including Ableton Live Lite.
The classic Universal Audio 610 tube preamp has been used to record everyone from Ray Charles to Van Halen. Volt 1 gives you the rich, full sound of this classic UA mic/line/instrument preamp, which is thanks to its UA-exclusive built-in tube emulation circuitry.
- Vintage Mic Preamp mode – record voice or guitar with the sound of the UA 610 tube preamp
- Class-leading 24 bit/196kHz audio conversion
- Includes a range of professional software – Ableton, Melodyne, UJAM’sVirtual Drummer, Marshall, Ampeg, and more
- Studio-quality headphone amp for loud, clear monitoring
- 48V phantom power for condenser microphones
- Rugged construction
- 1-in/1-out MIDI connections
- Ableton Live Lite
- Softube Marshall Plexi Classic Amp and Time & Tone Bundle
- Celemony Melodyne Essential
- Relab LX480 Essentials
- Plugin Alliance – Ampeg SVT-VR Classic, Brainworx bx_tuner, Brainworx bx_masterdesk
- Classic UJAM Virtual Drummer DEEP and Virtual Bassist DANDY
- Spitfire LABS
The Volt 276 features an analogue 76 compressor based on UA’s classic 1176 Limiting Amplifier, letting you add clarity and punch to your voice and other instruments.
The Volt 476 has all the same great features as the Volt 276 but has 4 inputs and 4 outputs, ideal for those who want to connect more instruments and use different output options.
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is one of the best audio interfaces for beginners, and also one of our top-selling products. Ideal for singer-songwriters, guitarists, keyboard players, singers and musicians on the go, the 2i2 uses the best Scarlett preamps yet. Scarlett lets you simultaneously record and playback up to two channels, as well as provide high headroom inputs and Air mode, giving your vocals some more depth and texture.
Scarlett also has almost no latency, which means you hear yourself in real-time, as opposed to a slight delay. This is all housed in a compact, portable unit, making it easy to throw in your bag and make music anywhere.
- Two combination inputs for recording vocals and instruments at the same time
- ‘Air mode’ to give vocals and acoustic instruments a brighter sound
- High-headroom instrument inputs allow recording without any clipping/distortion
- Halo on the Gain meters for easy level readings
- Record and mix at up to 24-bit/192kHz
- Super low latency
- Ableton Live Lite
- Free 3-month Splice Sounds subscription with new Splice accounts
- Focusrite Red 2 & Red 3 Plug-In Suite
- A choice of 1 of 4 XLN Audio Addictive Keys virtual instruments
- Softube Time & Tone Bundle
- Access to the Focusrite Plug-in Collective
Everything you need to get started
The pack includes: a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 Audio Interface, microphone, mic stand attachment, headphones, a 3m XLR cable and a USB cable (Type C-A)
The 4i4 is Ideal for those who need more functionality, featuring 4 balanced line inputs and 4 balanced outputs, keeping the 2 mic preamps that are found on the 2i2.
Audient have been providing top-quality consoles and pre-amps for years, and have recently ventured into the world of interfaces. Audient’s iD range offers high-quality audio in a compact, rugged, all-metal unit at an affordable price, which makes them a great line of audio interfaces for beginners.
The Audient iD4 MKII USB Audio Interface is the smallest of the iD range, packing a huge range of features into a small, portable unit. The iD4 is best for solo musicians who don’t need many inputs and outputs and features Audient’s renowned Class-A console mic preamps, a discrete JFET instrument input, class-leading conversion technology, two headphone jacks, and console-style monitoring control. The iD4 also has Audient’s ScrollControl virtual scroll wheel that lets you use the iD4’s big volume knob to adjust your DAW and plug-in parameters.
- 1 x Audient Console Mic Pre
- Class Leading Converters
- 1 x JFET Instrument Input
- 2 x Line Outputs, Dual Headphone Outputs
- True Phantom Power over USB
- USB3.0 Bus Powered
- All Metal Design
- Free Software + Plugin
- Steinberg’s Cubase/Cubasis LE3 DAW
- Two Notes Wall of Sound cab simulation
- A range of virtual instruments from Waldorf and Gforce
- Three introductory courses from Produce Like a Pro.
The iD14 has two mic preamps which also work as line outputs, as well as four separate line outputs
The Audient ID44 has four Audient console mic preamps, class-leading converters, ADAT expandability and more.
The Native Instruments Komplete Audio 1 is a great audio interface for beginners as it has everything you need to start recording right out of the box. It’s also ideal for solo musicians, guitarists, podcasters and more. Its compact, portable size lets you throw it in your bag and record anywhere.
The Komplete Audio 1 provides you with two different inputs – an XLR input to connect a mic for vocals, and a jack to connect guitars or other line-in sounds. The stereo RCA outputs let you connect hi-fi speakers so you can play everything out loud.
- 1x XLR mic in with 48V phantom power, 1x jack input with individual gain control
- Stereo RCA out so you can connect hi-fi speakers
- VU Meter to accurately adjust levels
- Input/host mix allows the option to hear playback while recording
- Premium-quality audio at 192 kHz and 24 bit for crystal clear recordings
- MASCHINE Essentials: Full MASCHINE software (same as MIKRO, MASCHINE MK3, JAM) with 1.6 GB MASCHINE Factory Selection of samples, one-shots, loops, and instruments. Option to upgrade to full MASCHINE Factory Library and KOMPLETE 12 Select
- REPLIKA: Professional creative delay plugin
- SOLID BUS COMP: Powerful compressor for mixing and mastering
- PHASIS: Timeless phasing effects for adding movement to any sound
- MONARK: Warm vintage tones from the undisputed king of monophonic analogue synths
- KOMPLETE START: NI’s free production suite
- 2 Months free subscription at Sounds.com
The Komplete Audio 2 has a 1/4″ jack for one of the two main outputs which makes it ideal for professional studio monitors, whereas the Komplete Audio 1 has an RCA phono output instead, which is best for DJs and lower-end systems.
The Komplete 4 has four analogue in/outs, two digital in/out, two headphone outs, and a MIDI in/out, which is great if you have more instruments you want to record.
The Presonus AudioBox iOne Audio Interface is ideal for beginners, featuring
The Presonus AudioBox iOne is a lightweight, portable audio interface that’s great for beginners as well as solo musicians and podcasters who want to record high-quality audio at home or on the go.
The PreSonus AudioBox iOne has a Class A mic preamp and 24-bit/96kHz recording quality so you can create crystal clear recordings. You also get PreSonus’ Studio One Artist DAW software so you can start recording right out of the box. Also included is the Capture recording app, which lets you connect your iPad so it’s easy to record anywhere.
- 24-bit resolution and 96 kHz sampling rate
- 1 microphone input with low-noise, high-headroom, Class A mic preamplifier and +48V phantom power
- 1 instrument input
- 2 balanced ¼-inch TRS main line-level outputs
- Stereo headphone output with independent level control
- Zero-latency monitoring via internal analog mixer (fixed 50/50 mix via Direct button)
- Signal present and clipping LEDs
- Studio One Artist DAW software and over 6GB of third-party resources
- Transfer files wirelessly from Capture for iPad to Studio One
- Compatible with almost all recording software for macOS, Windows, and iPadOS
- Studio Magic Software Suite included
The AudioBox iOne has one instrument input and one microphone input, whereas the Audiobox iTwo has two combo mic/instrument/line inputs, great for recording in stereo with mics or a keyboard, or two guitars, two mics, or guitar and bass.
The Studio 24C is a more powerful, but still portable audio interface. Great for those who want something more versatile.
Check out our Top 5 Beginner Audio Interfaces – Musicians Actually Want [VIDEO]
If you have a higher budget, are more experienced, or need an audio interface with more functionality, check out our blog post on our Top 5 High-End Audio Interfaces.